WELCOME TO CHRIST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

All are welcome at Christ Church. Whether you are a first-timer or a long-time parishioner, a newcomer, a visitor, a seeker, or you are returning to Christ Church, everyone has a place at Christ’s table. Whoever you are, or wherever you may be in your stage of life or phase of your spiritual journey, we hope you will come worship with us.

We care for each other because we believe no one is beyond the reach of God. The resources of God’s love are available to all throughout our lives. We participate in many different ministries that help us grow in faith and service. 

Christ United Methodist Church, with a membership of over 600, continues to grow and change to meet the needs of the congregation and community. Our church draws strength from the past, and courageously plans for the future in order to respond to the needs of life in the contemporary world.

  • Beware the Sand Pockets

    Beware of Sand Pockets
    Matthew 7:24-27

    If you've ever watched a do-it-yourself show like Flip This House, you know that people who are good at buying houses can walk through in a house and spot things -- potential problems -- that other people won't see. Knowing what to look for is the key.

    Small things, such as ceiling cracks, doors that don’t shut right, floors that aren’t level, windows that are jammed … they all point to a problem much deeper that just a few minor fixes. They point to a problem with the house’s foundation … which is a very serious issue!

    It's pretty amazing how people who know construction know what to look for and can spot problems that others can't see.

    Some business experts can do the same thing. They can spot trouble long before it comes to the surface -- just by looking at cash flow and payables and receivables and sales trends. The business may look like it's thriving to some, but an expert can see things below the surface that others can't see.

    That’s how it is in most things of life … success and stability depends on the foundation upon which that endeavor is built. Without a good foundation, you're in trouble. And that’s especially true when it comes to the foundation on which you decide to build your life.

    To drive that point home, Jesus told a small parable about two men who built their hoses on different foundations: the wise man built his house on the rock, the foolish man built his house on the sand. When the rains came down and floods went up, one house stood strong while the other fell to the ground!
    What was the difference between the two? It wasn't the house; apparently they pretty much built the same house. It wasn't the storm, either. It wasn't that one man went through a gentle spring shower and the other man went through a monsoon. They both experienced the same storm.

    What, then, was the difference? The difference was the foundation on which they built. One built on rock. One built on sand.

    No doubt, this parable is about more than house foundations. Jesus is talking here about the foundation on which we build our lives … either rock or sand. What it comes down to, Jesus says, is obedience. Look again at verse 24:

    “Whoever hears these words of mine and puts them into practice will be like a wise man, who built his house on a rock.”

    Now the key phrase here is “Put’s my words into practice”. It’s about doing.
    That's what it comes down to: obedience. That's what this parable is all about.

    For many people, obedience is an intimidating word. A life of consistent obedience seems to be just beyond our reach. We're more sure of our ability to fail than we are of our ability to succeed in this area.

    But we need to understand that it’s the lack of consistent obedience, more than anything else, that causes our lives to become unstable. We often blame it on the storm itself, but the storm isn’t to blame -- because as we talked about last week, everyone goes through the storm.

    So, the problem isn’t the bad weather you’re facing … it's the foundation your life is built on. When it comes to building a stable life, it's what's under your feet that matters more than anything else. Is it solid rock, or is it shifting sand?
    Now, we've all known people who fall squarely into one category or the other. For example, I've known people whose entire life -- everything they do and everything they stand for -- is built on a solid foundation of obedience and faithfulness. Whenever there's a storm, they weather it and just keep going.

    And then I've also known people whose entire life -- everything they do and everything they stand for -- is built on bad decisions and impulsive choices and selfish motives and thoughtless actions. And when the storm comes, they don’t weather it very well.

    But if you think about it, very few of us live all the way one way or the other. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, where some areas of our lives are built on rock and other areas of our lives are built on sand.

    For instance I've known people who are very responsible in every way financially. They've never bounced a check or missed a payment or been late on a bill, but their relationships are a mess. That part of their life -- the relationship part -- is built on sand.

    I've known people whose spiritual lives are solid, but they're not taking care of their health, or their work ethic isn't up to par -- and it's creating problems for them. That part of their life is built on sand.

    But God has spoken to us about how to live in every area of our lives -- in our finances, in our relationships, in our health, in our emotions, in our motives …

    in the way we respond to mistreatment, in the way we respond to those in need, in the way we respond to a crisis, in the way we do our job, in the way we talk, in the way that we think –
    God has given us a standard to live by … things that make for a solid foundation for our life. The problem is, we tend to pick and choose buffet style what we're willing to do fully and what we're willing to do only a little.

    In other words, we all have these pockets of sand in our lives where we resist the obedient doing part, where we aren't yet willing to fully put into practice the words of Jesus. And these little sand pockets create problems.

    Yes, we have areas of our lives that are strong, but we also have areas of our lives that are built on sand. Here's the problem. Sand has an erosive quality about it. It eats away at the foundation of your life.

    Think about it. When part of your life is solid and part of your life is unstable … it’s the unstable part that the enemy attacks; that’s where the storm tends to hit the hardest.

    If you're rock solid financially but your marriage is hanging by a thread, guess where the storm’s going to hit. If you're faithful in service and faithful in attendance but you don't make an effort to manage your emotions or bridle your tongue -- guess which area’s going to come crashing in.

    That's where the storm hits first and that's where it hits the hardest … in those sandy areas of our lives. We all have them. Some more than others, certainly, but we all have them.

    We need to remember that when it comes to obedience, selective obedience simply won’t work over the long term. Godcalls us to full and complete commitment to him. Anything less is ultimately flirting with disaster.
    Which brings us to a couple of inconvenient in-your-face truths that we have to come to grips with. They may not be easy to accept, but until we do, our lives will continue to be built on shifting sand.

    The first truth is that you can't blame everything on the storm – though that’s what we often try to do. We say, "I'm only having these financial problems because of the economy. It has nothing to do with the fact that for years I’ve been spending about 110% of what I earn and I'm up to my neck in debt.

    Or we say, "My health problems have nothing to do with the fact that I eat 8000 calories a day. It's just that this kind of thing runs in my family … and all of a sudden out of nowhere this hit me."

    Or then we say, "My boss just up and fired me! It had nothing to do with the days I came in late or called in sick to enjoy a day off. It had nothing to do with me losing my temper and screaming at the boss. It’s just that the boss doesn’t like me and it’s not fair.

    We blame our problems on the storm, but that's not really a valid excuse because everyone faces the storm.

    The second truth is that each of us must be willing to take ownership of the decisions we’ve made that brought us to this point.

    If you're still taking refuge in the idea that "it's not my fault" … then you'll never build a solid life. If you're still looking for a reason why you're not responsible for where you are in life, your life will never get much better than it is -- because it all comes down to this: How willing are you to do life God’s way?

    So we all have these pockets of sand in our lives … areas where we're not fully putting into practice the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of scripture, and these sand pockets make us more vulnerable to the inevitable storms.

    So what can you do about it? You can to begin to change the foundation that your life is being built on. How? It all comes down to one word: Doing. It all comes down to one phrase: Put into practice the words of Jesus

    Here's what I want you to understand: Even if you’ve spent your entire life building on sand, you can change it today simply by deciding today that you’ll begin to put into practice the teachings of Jesus in those areas of your life that currently consist of sand.

    And I want to know this: With every act of obedience, you turn the sand beneath your feet into solid rock. Every time you say, "This time I’ll do it God's way," your life will become more and more stable.

    We all have these pockets of sand in lives that make us more vulnerable than ever to the storms that we’ll inevitably face. We need to ask God to show us where the sand pockets are and go after them!

    It all comes down to how much you're willing to hear the words of Jesus, and how much you're willing to put his words into practice.

    Remember Jesus’ illustration. Whoever hears these words of min and puts them into practice will be like a wise man who built his hose on the rock.

    Don’t be foolish. Beware the pockets of sand. Be storm ready. And there’s no better time to began than right now!


  • A Storm Warning

    BE WISE: A STORM WARNING
    Matthew 7:24-27

    Most times it come at the worst possible time. Often they come quickly, and usually unexpectedly. The wind, the rain, the waves. We’ve all experienced it. We’ve all faced the very real threat that a storm can pose.

    It was only a couple of weeks ago that our area experienced devastating storms. Strong wind and pouring rain. Tree were down. Power was lost. The water rose. Streets were blocked. Even some homes were destroyed. Storms like that are nothing to take lightly.

    But not all storms are caused by wind and rain. Sometimes the storms come as events or circumstances in our life. And sometimes those “life storms” can be even more devastating than those caused by the weather. And we’ve all experienced those as well.

    A loved one gets sick. A job gets lost. A house gets foreclosed on. A spouse walks away. The stock market crashes. A son or daughter get’s caught-up in making terrible mistakes. The phone rings in the middle of the night. An officer comes to the door unexpectedly. Those kinds of storms can also wreak a life!

    So what’s a person to do? We can’t spend every minute of every day worrying about what kind of storm may be lurking just around the corner. But there is something we can do. We can prepare. We can do our best to be “Storm ready”. We can learn how to best face the storms when the do come.

    And that brings us to the theme of todays message. It’s all about storm warnings … and having the wisdom to intentionally get ready for them
    So this morning I’d like for us to take on that subject by stepping back far enough to learn some things about storms. And our source for that learning is going to be one little parable that Jesus told.

    If you grew up in church, or if you ever went to Vacation Bible School when you were a kid, you no doubt know this story and the song it inspired. As we take a closer look, I think we can uncover some ideas that’ll help us build a more solid life and to better prepare ourselves to be storm ready.

    Let’s begin with the realization that THE STORMS OF LIFE AREN’T OPTIONAL. Everyone. All of us. If you have a pulse, you're on the list to face a storm at some point in your life -- and I’d even venture to guess that you've already faced one or two. Well guess what? There’s more to come.

    Here's something we sometimes don't think about. In spite of all he had done right, the wise man went through the very same storm as the foolish man. That's because it’s not optional. Everyone goes through the storm.

    Jesus said earlier in the Sermon on the Mount that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. It makes no difference who you are. Good, bad, young, old, rich poor, handsome or not, talented or not, intelligent or not, wise or not, – even religious or not - you still have to go through the storm.

    By that I mean health problems, financial problems, relationship problems, job problems, betrayals, disappointments -- all types of storms that everyone has to endure at some point in their life.

    The thing is, I think too many of us, when we face the difficulties of life, automatically think that the hardships are obviously a punishment from God.
    We’ve been conditioned to associate difficulties with disobedience. If things aren’t going well, it must be our own fault! But that’s not always the case.

    Now don’t get me wrong … Some Storms We Bring On Ourselves. You see, sin always brings consequences. If we disobey a Biblical principle for how to live life, we shouldn’t be surprised when things don’t go well!

    When we make bad decisions, or go against God’s direction for our life, we’re going to encounter difficulties. It’s the principle of reaping what we sow.

    But please understand, Not All Storms Are of Our Own Making. Think about it. The wise man did everything right. But a terrifying storm still came. What I’m saying is, sometimes, even when we do it right, we may still very well find ourselves in the middle of a storm!

    To spell it out, that means that at some time or another, we're all going to get wet. At some time or another, we're all going to get rained on. It means that there’ll be times when you have to cancel the picnic and reschedule the game.

    More dramatically, it means that all of us, at one time or another, will find ourselves in the center of a situation that may seem out of control. We’re all destined to endure the occasional storm that's strong enough to bring an average house down to the ground.

    But that doesn't mean that God has turned away from you. It just means simply that you walk the same trail and sail the same stormy waters as everyone else.

    The storms of life aren’t optional. We don’t get to pick when or where or even if a storm will come. It’s not optional. Storms happen!

    That brings me to the second thing I think we need to learn to be storm ready. And that is that THE STORMS OF LIFE AREN’T INVINCIBLE. What I mean is, they're not all-powerful.
    A storm may come along and knock you down ... but it doesn't have to knock you out. You can survive any storm that comes your way. And, as a matter of fact, you can even come through that storm stronger than ever before.

    So if you have built your life on something solid, you’ll experience the storms differently than most people do. When you build your life on something solid, the storm won't have the same kind of destructive power it might otherwise have.

    What do I mean when I say 'if you’ve built your life on something solid'? I'm referring to what Jesus said in the text we read earlier. Let me read vs 24 again. Jesus says, "Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock."

    Now don’t miss what Jesus is saying here. If you live your life putting into practice the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of scripture, then when the storms of life do come, they won't be able to do bring your house down!

    For example, if you’ve spend your life putting into practice the financial principles found in the Bible, then when the financial storm comes, it may bring with it some damage, but it won't wipe you out.

    If you’ve spend your life putting into practice the scriptural teaching about marriage and family relationships, or about your work ethic, or about the way you take care of yourself physically …

    … then when the storms do come, they may be uncomfortable, but they won't bring destruction … because your life is built on the solid foundation of what the Biblical teaches.

    I've seen it happen. I know good solid spiritually mature people who’ve faced every type of storm imaginable -- from bankruptcy to health crisis to death of a loved one to personal betrayal and on and on and on.

    And, yes, the storms were really painful. But through it all, their house stood strong: they survived the storm because their life was built on a solid foundation of obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Someone might say, "That’s the problem. Up to this point, I haven’t built my life on the teachings of Jesus. I’ve built my life on something else. So now I'm facing the storm and things are starting to collapse. Now it’s too late!”

    Actually, it's not too late. If you’ve built your life on sand, if you've made lots of poor decisions over the years and not taken seriously the teachings of Jesus, then the unpleasant truth is, yes, the storms of life will certainly come and yes, they will cause some damage – maybe even serious damage.

    But here's what I want you to know, and I'm speaking specifically to those of you who’ve built your life on sand and have now come to regret it. Here's what I want you to know: regardless of the damage that has been done, there exists through Jesus Christ the promise of restoration.

    Which brings us to the third thing we need to know to be storm ready. THE RESULTS FROM STORMS OF LIFE DON’T HAVE TO BE PERMANENT.

    When the foolish man's house came crashing down, that was the end of the parable … but was it the end of the story for him? No, it wasn't -- not if we believe the rest of what Jesus taught in the gospels, not if we believe the rest of what Scripture says about overcoming a setback.
    If you want a good example of someone who built his life on sand, consider the prodigal son. He ran away from home with his inheritance and wasted it all on wild living.

    And then when his life came crashing down around him and he found himself literally in a pigpen, what did he do? Was the hog trough the end for the line for the prodigal son? No, it wasn't.

    The Bible says that when he came to his senses, he said, “I’ll go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.
    He then went home and his father received him with open arms and the young man's life was rebuilt and restored.

    I want you to know that even when you bring the storm on yourself and your house comes crashing down and your life falls apart, you can be restored. Your life can be rebuilt and made new again.

    That's the thing about the storms of life, they can cause damage … sometimes even serious damage … but that damage doesn't have to be permanent. What the storms of life destroy, God can rebuild.

    You see, Our God is the God of second chances. The storm you may be facing may be destructive, but the results don’t have to be permanent. Whenever you're ready, you can pick up the pieces and rebuild your life on something more solid ... the rock solid principles that Jesus Taught.

    The storms aren’t optional. Whether your life is built on rock or on sand, the storms will come. So don't be confused about what the storm means. God hasn’t abandoned you … neither is he out to get you.

    You also need to remember that the storm may be powerful, but it's not invincible … it’s not all-powerful. God can get you through it. Whether you lose a little or whether you lose a lot, he can get you through it.

    And if your own bad decisions have made the storm more destructive than it needed to be, I want you to know that it's not the end of the story for you. God can restore you. He can put you back on solid ground. All you have to do is to decide that you're ready to begin building again … and this time include God!

    There's an old saying that goes like this: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the next best time to plant a tree is right now. The past can't be undone, but it can be redeemed. And that's what God does. He clears away the debris and helps us to build something new.

    If that’s your story, you’re in the right place! God isn’t out to get you. And this storm doesn’t have to destroy you. The story’s not over.

    But it is your decision how it’ll end. Know that God is faithful. He wants to help! So don’t let the storm have the final word! Let God come in and help you put the pieces back together!


  • Not Worthy, But Invited

    Not Worthy … But Invited!
    Matthew 22:1-10

    It was like nothing they had ever experienced before. It was far beyond their imagination! Oh, they had been to wedding dinners before, but nothing like this! Champaign, caviar, filet mignon, and only the finest wine. It was way beyond the kind of dining they had ever eaten!

    You see, they were in the company of people from a completely different social stratum. They were way out of their league. People like them just didn’t attend such high society events.

    But yet, they had been invited. The invitation had their name on it. No one could explain why, there they were, being welcomed into the door. Not because any of them belonged there. Not because any one of them deserved to be there.

    But the lord of the castle had invited them anyway! Not worthy … but invited. There simply because they chose to accept the invitation. And not much has changed today.

    We live in a world that’s very selective about those who make the invitation list. Not everyone makes the cut! For instance, think about the message today’s TV and radio commercials give.

    You need perfect teeth, perfect hair, and perfect clothes. You need to own just the right car, live in just the right house, and have just the right body before you get the stamp of approval. The problem is … not many of us fit that description.

    And so we’re constantly being bombarded with the message that we’re just not good enough. We’re not good enough to belong. We’re not good enough to make the grade. We’re not good enough to be invited … step aside and make room for those who do.

    Now this kind of worldly approach to life is bad enough in and of itself. It destroys self-confidence and it undermines our self-worth. But the saddest of all circumstances is when we allow that kind of “need to be worthy” thinking creep into our relationship with God.

    If we fall into the trap of thinking that our relationship with God is in any way dependent on us meeting some level of perfection, then we’re in really big trouble!

    That’s why the Bible consistently reminds us that WE SERVE A GOD OF GRACE! You see, God doesn’t choose to accept us because we’re the brightest or the best looking or even the most successful! God doesn’t gage us by some worldly sense of perfection. He gauges us solely by his grace!

    You see friends, if God did judge us by perfection, not a single one of us here this morning would make the cut. Not a single one of us is deserving of being invited to be a child of God. That’s why a strong understanding of grace is so important o haw we relate to God.

    We come to God, we’re invited to share at his table, not because we’ve earned it by being good enough, or religious enough … but simply because God, out of His wonderful love and grace, has invited us! So then it’s all about the invitation … not the deserving!
    Take a look back at the Biblical accounts. Abraham the liar was invited into the family. Jacob the deceiver was included as well. Not even David the adulterer was turned away.

    And in the New Testament the pattern continued. Matthew the extortioner was invited. As was Peter the hot-head … and even Judas the betrayer. And the list goes on and on … right up to you and me!

    You see, God doesn’t choose like the world chooses. Perfection isn’t the gage by which God selects those who are invited to belong to His family. God’s invitation is simply extended to all who are willing to come. That’s the good news of the Gospel.

    And that’s why we celebrate what’s called open communion at our church. That means that anyone who is seeking to live in a relationship with God is invited to come to the table. You don’t have to meet certain criteria before you can share in the bread and the cup.

    You don’t have to be a member of this church … or even be a part of the United Methodist Church. That’s because we’re not the ones inviting you to come to communion this morning … God is. And when it comes to the KOG, there’s a standing invitation to anyone who’s willing to come.

    But I think it’s really important to understand that the good news doesn’t stop there. As good as that is, it doesn’t tell the whole story. You see, the good news doesn’t stop with God’s invitation for us to become a part of his family and to share at his table. That’s only the beginning!

    You see, the good news also includes God’s promise to come into our lives with His transforming power. WITH THE GRACE OF ACCEPTANCE COMES THE POWER OF TRANSFORMATION.

    Make no mistake, God is more than willing to accept you just the way we are. He loves you just the way we are. And He’s willing to adopt you into His family and invites you to sit at His table just the way you are.

    But the reality is, GOD LOVES YOU FAR TOO MUCH TO ALLOW YOU TO STAY THAT WAY! And so a crucial part of the invitation to God’s table this morning is to allow Him to help make us into the people He created us to be.

    It’s not just a matter of coming as we are and leaving as we came. It’s a matter of coming as we are and allowing God to begin to work on us from the inside out … so that we leave different than we came!

    And so this morning, perfection isn’t the gage by which you’re invited to share in communion. You don’t have to have your life in perfect order to come forward. If that were the case, not a single one of us could come.

    Know that you’re invited and accepted at this table just the way you are.
    But come also knowing that because of God’s great love for you, God is calling and empowering you to become more than what you are right now.
    God wants to work in your life to make you the person He created you to be!

    But that requires a willingness to change and grow. That means work.
    And it’s not an easy task for any of us! But it’s something that we all need.

    So I invite you to come forward this morning in the assurance that you are accepted by God and invited to share at His table.
    But also come forward knowing that in and through it all, God’s not done with you yet … his transforming power and presence is at work in you to make you more than what you are right now.

    And so this morning, as we celebrate communion, we celebrate not only God’s acceptance and invitation … but also His transforming power at work in our lives!

    You may not be the person you want to be right now. But don’t let that stop you from accepting God’s love and grace in your life.

    After all, you don’t have to be perfect … just willing to let God forgive you and help you change for the better. Of course you’re not worthy … but you are invited!

  • Moving Forward

    Moving Forward In Life
    John 5:1-15

    Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. For those of us who struggled with physics, that’s Newton’s first law of motion. I learned it this way: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

    And I think that reality applies to a lot of things in life, not just in the physical realm. I think it also aptly applies to relationships, careers, … even spiritual matters. Once something comes to rest as it is, it takes a lot of energy to get it moving again. Like it or not, that’s just one of the realities of life!

    Another way to say it would be that it’s easy to get bogged down. It’s easy to settle into the same old routines … and never move forward in life. We can begin to think that how things are now is how they’ll always be. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Gaining momentum and moving forward isn’t easy.

    Just ask the mam who had endured 38 years of sickness and hopelessness! It’s a story that takes place in John 5, in the city of Jerusalem. Near one of the gates of the city was a pool called Bethesda where people would often gather, including many who were in need of healing.

    It’s here that we find this man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus came along, saw him there, and knowing his situation, asked him a simple and seemingly obvious yes-or-no question: “Do you want to get well?”

    Seems almost like a silly question, doesn’t it? But not so fast. Maybe he wanted to be healed and maybe he didn't. In fact, the man's actions indicate that perhaps he wasn't really completely for sure.
    The fact is, not everybody wants to be healed or wants to be made whole. And I'm not just talking about physical infirmities, I’m talking about all of the afflictions we endure in this life -- the problems and the difficulties and the challenges and the failures.

    You see, there are times that we don’t want to move forward in our lives. After all, moving forward can be scary. It involves change … and it’s easy to settle in and get comfortable, even if it’s not the best of situations. At least it’s familiar and we know what to expect. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

    So, when Jesus asks, "Do you want to be made well," maybe it wasn’t such a silly question after all. Sometimes, if we’re honest, we’d have to answer, "I'm not sure I'm ready." Why? Because being made well, being made whole, means that you have to be willing to move from where you are right now.

    And that means moving forward … not being content to remain where you are right now. That means being willing to change what needs to be changed … and for some of us, we're talking about epic change. But you can't do that until you're ready to take full responsibility for your own life’s direction.

    In the story we're looking at today, we’re going to take a quick look at how Jesus helped this man, who had been sick for so long, to begin to move forward in his life. We read the story earlier; now let’s take a closer look at how Jesus challenged this man to change his life.

    First of all, in order to move forward in life, just like this man, we need to Be Willing to Admit That What We’ve Been Doing Isn’t Working.

    Today's story took place at the pool of Bethesda. There was a legend about this pool that every once in a while an angel would come down and stir the waters … and the first one to be immersed in the waves would be healed.
    So this man's strategy was to go to the pool and do his very best to be the first one in the rippling water. Now we don't know how long he tried this, we only know that he had been an invalid for 38 years.

    And we also know that his plan wasn't very well thought out, because even if the legend was true, it didn't do him any good. When the water was stirred, there was no one to help him in. And so he waited and waited and waited, hoping that eventually someone would come along and do what needed done.

    So his situation never changed. Everything remained the same. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.

    You see, to move forward means that at some point we have to take a cold hard look at what we’ve been doing and how well it’s been working … and perhaps admit to ourselves that, "What I'm doing right now isn't working. I need a new plan.”

    You see, the truth is, many of us live in an endless cycle in which we face the same situation again and again and again -- and time after time we respond in the same way. It never works … but we keep doing it that way anyway … hoping for a better result this time.

    Friends, at some point, to move forward, we have to be willing to admit: This isn't working. It's time to consider something else. It’s time to try something different.

    Think of how you approach your job, or your relationships, or your finances, or your spiritual life, or any other area that matters. Are there situations screaming at you: "This isn’t working. It never has … and it never will." If so, don't waste 38 years doing the same thing and hoping for a different result.

    Moving forward in life means being willing to admit when something in your life isn't working, so that you can begin to try something different.

    Here's another important part to moving forward in life. We need to Be Willing to Let Go of Our Excuses. Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed … a simple yes or no question, and the man responded with an excuse.

    "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I’m going, another steps down before me."

    Notice that's not what Jesus asked him. But the man was so full of reasons why it couldn't be done that he couldn't even hear Jesus' question correctly.

    And I think we have a tendency to be the same way. God says, "Do you want to be well?" And we give him all the reasons why we can't be.

    He says, "Do you want to be happy and blessed?" And we tell him all the reasons about why we can't be. God says, "Do you want to be used in a great way?" And we say, "This is why I can't be used in a great way … because of this and this and this."

    And so we go through life giving all these excuses why our life can’t be different … why we can’t move forward.

    And the problem is, excuses eventually give way to blame: it's not my fault, it's my situation, it's the economy. It's not my fault, it's my spouse, it's my parents, it's my kids, it's my boss. And on and on.

    But notice that Jesus didn't ask the man why he was in this predicament. He already knew. He didn't ask the man why he didn't get in the pool. He already knew why. Instead, he just asked him, "Do you want to be healed?"
    Could it be that's what God’s asking each one of us today as well? Do you want to be healed? Do you want to be made whole? Do you want to be blessed? Do you want to be useful?

    If so, then now’s the time to stop making excuses and stop placing blame and look instead to the risen Christ … and say with determination: Yes, I want to be healed. I want to be made whole. I want my life to be right.

    Friends, you'll never experience epic change in your life as long as you're hanging on to a list of excuses and driven by a mentality of blame. Take responsibility to do whatever it takes to begin moving forward!

    There's a third thing I want you to see. If we really want to bring change in our life, we need to be Be Willing to Step Out In Faith. Jesus said to the man, "Do you want to be healed?" He said, "Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool." Jesus then said ... "Get up, take up your bed, and walk."

    Try to imagine what the man must have been thinking! “I can’t do that. I’m sick. If I could do that, I’d have done it a long time ago!” But notice what the man did next. Jesus told the man, "Get up and walk." And that’s just what he did! No more excuses. No more blame. He simply took a step of faith!

    Now I want to make something clear at this point. If you want to create that kind of change in your life -- and I believe we all do in one area or another – you’ll not be able to do it by yourself. That's not what I'm suggesting.

    This man by the pool didn’t pick himself up by his own bootstraps. He was first touched by the power of Jesus Christ. His withered legs were made strong again by the power of Jesus Christ. God gave him what he needed to move forward with his life! He didn’t muster it up on his own!
    You see friends, to make a major change in your life, you need to believe with all your heart that God will empower you to do what he’s asking you to do. He’ll not tell you to get up and walk unless he’s given you the power to do it.

    He’ll not tell you to love your husband or wife, unless he empowers you to do so. He’ll not tell you to give up that habit or sin unless he gives you the power to do so. He’ll not tell you to forgive your enemies or to be faithful with your finances unless he empowers you to do so.

    All these things that God asks of us ... he empowers us to do. The question is: Are you ready to stand up? Are you ready to take that step of faith? Are you really ready to move forward in your life?

    If you want to create real change, at some point you've got to decide to try -- through the power of God -- to stand up. You’ve got to be willing to try!

    One quick final thought about moving forward in life. And that is we need to Realize That Not Everyone’s Going to Support Our Move. We need to be prepared for opposition if we truly want to bring about change.

    We see that in today's text. When God begins to move in your life, you can be sure that there’ll be those who will object. Nobody was bothering this man as he laid by the pool for 38 years … but as soon as he got up and walked, the critics came out of the woodwork.

    Their excuse was that the healing took place on the Sabbath. The religious leaders said to him ... "It’s the Sabbath, and it’s not lawful for you to take up your bed." The lesson is that when you take responsibility for your life and allow God to work in your life, someone is bound to object.

    Make no mistake, choosing to move forward in your life means that great things will happen … which means the critics will be there to let you know how you're doing it all wrong. But don’t let that stop you. If God is asking you to take a step of faith, don’t let anyone or anything get in the way!

    Life is far too short and far too precious to be lived in stagnation. Don’t allow yourself to settle for anything short of God’s best for your life. Be willing to change things up if you need to. When God prompts you to move forward in your life … don’t stubbornly stay where you are!

    Admit it when what you’re doing isn’t giving you the results you desire.
    Stop making excuses and assigning blame for where you are.
    Be willing to take that forward step of faith that God is asking of you.
    Not everyone’ll be happy with that … but God’s got a plan …
    And it’s always best to follow his lead!


  • Confront Troubles With Confidence

    Having Troubles?  Confront Them With Confidence
    2 Chronicles 20:15-23

    Last week we began a sermon series looking at the story of King Jehoshaphat, who found himself in big trouble one day … in spite of the fact that he had always tried to do what was right and was always helping people.

    Jehoshaphat was the King of Judah, and while he was trying to build a stronger, safer, and more god-honoring Judah, several of his enemies formed an alliance to take it all away from him. We saw that last week.

    “The armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. Messengers came and told him, "A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea."

    What was Jehoshaphat's response? He was terrified. Their combined armies were much stronger than his, and he didn't know what to do about it. So what did he do? Panic? Wave the white flag? No. The Bible says, "He begged the Lord for guidance." The KJV says, "He set himself to seek the Lord."

    And so as we saw last week, he prayed, he fasted, he listened, he trusted, he worshipped. Simply put, he surrendered himself to God.  And how did God respond to Jehoshaphat's prayers?  He said, "Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be afraid. This is my fight, not yours. Trust me."

    If you're looking at your life today and thinking, "Here comes trouble," I want you to know … whatever it is you’re facing … God can get you through it. And if you let him, in the process, he’ll bring you closer to him than you ever were before.
    Now the end of this story says in verse 30 ... “Jehoshaphat's kingdom was at peace. God had given him rest on every side.”  The thing is, I don’t believe that would’ve been the outcome if Jehoshaphat hadn’t place his trust and obedience in God.

    I believe that Jehoshaphat experienced God's blessings because, instead of giving up, instead of running away, instead of fighting in his own strength, he confidently confronted the trouble determined to seek the face of God.

    Now, let's pick up again with the story. The men of Judah had all come together and a prophet began to speak to them.  He says" Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Don’t be discouraged.  Don't be afraid of this mighty army … for the battle isn’t yours, but God's.

    “Tomorrow, march out against them.  But you’ll not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!"

    Did you get that? He said, "I want you to go to where your enemies are, take your positions for battle, and then let me do the rest."

    You see, the point of today's message is that God will not leave you to fight your battles alone.  You can trust him to go before you and prepare the way.
    But we do have to show up.  We do have to have enough faith to do what God says to do.

    You see, this story helps us to see some things that we can do to help us achieve the victory.  First of all, we need to be willing to Confront Our Problems Head On.

    When Jehoshaphat cried out to God for help, God could have said, "Hey, there's an army gathered against you in the wilderness, but don't worry about it. Just stay where you are. It's taken care of."  He could have said that, but he didn't -- because that’s not how God tends to work.

    Trusting God to solve your problems doesn't mean that you can just ignore your problems, or avoid your problems, or pretend like they don't exist. Instead, God wants you to meet your problems head on.

    Now, think about a problem you may be facing. What do you need to do in order to confront it?  Remember, you don't need to fight it in your own strength … God’s already promised to engage the enemy with you … but you do need to be willing to confront the problem head on.

    You may not have the wherewithal to solve your health problems or your marital problems or your financial problems -- but you can stand up to them. You can take your position, just as God told Jehoshaphat to do, so that God can do miraculous things in your life.

    It's been said many times, "Eighty percent of success is simply showing up." You know what? I think that applies to the way we face problems too.  A big part of success tends to be having the courage to face the problem head on.

    When you're willing to stand up to the enemy face to face, you unleash the power of God in your life.  So, if you find yourself thinking, "here comes trouble," the answer isn’t to panic or to run; the answer is to confidently confront it.

    Here's the next thing I want you to notice.
    Once you’ve decided to confidently confront your problem, the second part of experiencing the victory is to be willing to Take Immediate Action.   Listen to what God say to Jehoshaphat. He says, "Go out against your enemies tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!"

    So what did they do?  Verse 20 says, “Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness to face their enemies.”  In other words, they didn’t hesitate to move forward. They didn't put it off.  They immediately stepped up to the plate!

    You know what?  Many times when we're up against problems, and we know we have to confront them face to face, we try to put it off as long as we can.  But it’s been said, "Where there’s a hill to climb, don't think that waiting will make it any smaller."

    The Apostle Paul reminds us of the same thing in 2 Corinthians 6:2.  He says,  “Indeed, the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation.”

    Right now you can begin taking steps to move your problems out of the way. Even if they're tiny little baby steps, even if they seem really insignificant, you can begin taking those steps, and I can promise you two things: God will notice, and God will show up!

    Often times we see this vast army before us, and we think, "There’s nothing     I can do right now, so I'll just do nothing at all. I can't solve this problem today, so I'll put it off a little while longer."  We develop a "what's the use" attitude.

    But if Jehoshaphat and his army had done that, they never would have faced their enemies and they never would have experienced the victory.
    Notice how God told the army to move into position right away.  He said, "I’ll be with you, I’ll protect you, I’ll fight for you, I’ll give you victory ... but you have to be willing to move forward so that I can begin to bless you."

    Could it be that God is telling us we need to be willing to face our problems, and we need to be willing to move forward now.  The third part of confronting the enemy with confidence is that we need to Stay Focused On God.

    The Bible says, “After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: 
"Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!"
    And then what does the Bible say?  “At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves.  Did you get that? At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the enemy self-destructed.

    Last week we talked about how praise and worship are an important part of seeking God.  Worship and praise are also an important part of confronting your problems, and they're crucial to experiencing the victory.

    I'm convinced that far too often we focus too much on our problems.  We talk about the strength of the enemy. We talk about how bad things are. We list in order all of the difficulties we face.

    Now as I said earlier, we can't ignore them. We can't pretend like they don't exist. But let me make something clear. There's a big difference between confronting your problems and just talking about them!   Look at what Jehoshaphat says to the people.
    "Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in what he says, and you will succeed."

    When we talk about our problems nonstop, without ever doing anything about them, they only grow in stature.  They become our focus.  But when we shift our focus from how big the problem is … to how big God is, things begin to change.  We begin to find the courage and strength to confront them!

    As you approach the enemies that have aligned themselves against you, stand firm in the faith and stay focused on God.

    In this story we see how the army of Judah began to move forward with its focus on God, and, as a result, they never had to enter the fight. God fought the battle for them. And the same can be true for us today as well.

    Jehoshaphat's story can become our story. When you've got armies lined up against you, and problems surrounding you, you can experience God's victory. How? The same way Jehoshaphat did!

    By faith confront your problems head on, by faith begin to move forward step by step, and by faith, stay focused on the amazing power of God that can give you the victory. Ultimately, the battle doesn't belong to you. It belongs to God.  And trust me, no enemy you may face is any bigger or any stronger!

    No matter what the battle you may be fighting today, know that the words of the prophet Zechariah are sure and true.  Victory comes … “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the Lord of hosts.”

    The question is, do we have enough courage to give the problem over to him?


  • Get Real With God

    Facing Troubles: Get Real with God
    2 Chronicles 20:1-19

    Bible stories are at the heart of our faith. The Bible’s full of them. As we read and hear those stories we catch a glimpse of God. We get a look into his nature and character. And this is nowhere more true than in the Gospels!

    In the stories of Jesus we see the heart of God. There’s so much to be learned!
    But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the rest of the stories found in the Bible. They’re all there for our benefit and learning. And that’s true not only of the New Testament … but the old as well!

    And so for the next few weeks we'll be looking at an Old Testament story about a king … by the name of Jehoshaphat. If you've ever watched cartoons, you've heard his name: Jumping Jehoshaphat. I think it was Yosemite Sam who used to say it. But that phrase has nothing to do with this story.

    Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah back when Judah and Israel were divided kingdoms. This was around 900 BC. And the Bible says that Jehoshaphat was a good king. He wasn't perfect, he made some mistakes, he needed to be corrected a time or two, but he was a good king, and a good leader, as we'll see in this story.

    The reason why this story is so interesting is because Jehoshaphat found himself in the same kind of situation that so many of us find ourselves in from time to time. And this story shows us how Jehoshaphat was able to get out of it. If you've ever had to face trouble in your life, I think you'll like this series.

    So, what was Jehoshaphat's situation? Let's take a quick look at his story.
    In the events leading up today's story, we see that Jehosaphat had been an effective king. If you were to go back and look at his accomplishments, you’d see that he was an honest man with good motives, making a sincere effort to do his job well.

    But then the King faced on of the biggest challenges of this time. The Bible says, “The armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. Messengers told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea."

    Do you know what they were saying? They were saying, "King, here comes trouble." It's bad enough when you have to go to war against one enemy, but Jehoshaphat had three coming at him at the same time. They had formed an alliance with the sole purpose of conquering his kingdom, enslaving his people, and taking control of his land.

    Anything like this ever happen to you? Have you ever felt like you were doing the best you could, when all of a sudden it seemed like all your enemies and every negative thing in the world began to work against you? If so, there’s a good chance that your response was probably a lot like Jehoshaphat's.

    The Bible says he was "terrified." He was scared stiff. He knew he was in over his head. His exact words were, "We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. I don’t know what to do..."

    Have you ever felt this way? “I don't have the ability, or the resources, or the power, or the wisdom or the wherewithal to solve this problem. I’m powerless and I don't know what to do."

    That's where Jehoshaphat was as he faced this attack from multiple enemies. But in his story he learned something about how to experience the power of God. If you're facing attacks from all sides, then, just like King Jehoshaphat, you're a perfect candidate to experience the power of God in your life.

    In today's message we'll focus on some things we can do when trouble strikes. And the bottom line is that that’s when we need to get Get Real With God.

    That’s when we need to be open and honest with God … to put away all the pride and arrogance that so often times keeps God at a distance. That’s when we need to really begin to seek the face of God! Now back to the story.

    As I mentioned, when Jehoshaphat heard that three armies had united to attack him, his immediate reaction was to be terrified. But then verse 3 tells us, “Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance.”

    The King James Version says, “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord.” Which leads us to one of the ways to get real with God. Getting Real with God Involves Transparency.

    Transparency means that we do away with the King James sounding prayers, and we stop reminding God of how lucky he is to have us on his team, and we quit trying to impress everyone with our religious deeds and we get honest and say, "God, I'm helpless. I need you."

    The good news is that you can pray this prayer anytime you need to. You can be completely honest with God. You don't have to play games. You don't have to pretend that everything’s OK, when really it’s not. You can say, like Jehoshaphat, "God, I'm afraid. This is too big for me to handle on my own and I don't know what to do."
    You can tell God everything you're going through. The important thing is that you spend time in his presence. The more time you spend in the presence of God, the closer you get to his power. Look again at Jehoshaphat’s prayer.

    Facing such insurmountable trouble, he prayed, “Whenever we’re faced with any calamity, we can come to stand in your presence. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us."

    Getting real with God begins with spending time in his presence, standing before him, pouring out your heart openly and honestly. If you’re facing trouble, you begin by being transparent before God.

    The second thing I want you to see is that Getting Real with God Involves Doing Our Part. Getting real with God involves some level of personal sacrifice. We need to be willing to do our part, small as it may be, so that God can do his part, which is greater than we can ask or imagine."

    Notice how Jehoshaphat didn’t just sit back and wait idly for God to rescue him. Not only dis he begin to seek the Lord, he also invited the entire nation to seek God with him.

    The Bible says, “He ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. People from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord's help.”

    You see, there's something about fasting that pleases God. There's something about fasting that gets his attention and causes God to move in our direction. If you want to get serious about seeking God, give serious consideration to the idea of prayer and fasting.

    There are lots of ways to do that. For example, you can refrain from food for a certain period of time. You can also fast from other things, such as TV, or video games, or the Internet. By doing that, you're saying, "God, I'm moving this out of life right now so that I can create more room in my life for you."

    Getting real with God involves giving of yourself. It requires sacrifice. It's not that you're earning God's favor, it's that you're demonstrating to him and to yourself and to everyone else that this is important … that you mean business.

    Here's the third thing. Getting Real with God Also Involves Listening.
    In this story we see that after the people of Judah poured out their hearts in God's presence, after they called on him for help and came before him in prayer and fasting, God began to speak to them.

    The Bible says, “As the men of Judah stood before the Lord, the Spirit of
    the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. He said, "Listen King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don't be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God's.”

    Here's something you can count on. After a season of getting real with God, God will begin to speak.

    Maybe it’ll come from the words of the Bible, maybe it’ll from the words of a sermon, maybe it’ll come from the words of a trusted, maybe it’ll come from an inner witness in your spirit ... but there will come a time when you realize that God is speaking … that is … if you're listening.

    God can speak to you through all kinds of situations. Getting real with God involves listening. It involves being attentive to his voice. He’s not hiding from you and he doesn’t remain silent. He will speak … if you will listen.
    Here's the fourth thing I want you to see. Getting Real with God Involves Trust. In our text, when God began speaking to his people, what did he say to them? Listen to his message.

    It says, "Don’t be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow,
    for the Lord is with you!" Basically God is saying to them, "Trust me. This isn't your battle. It's mine. So don't be afraid and don't be discouraged."
    He says, "Tomorrow I want you to go and face this army.”

    You know, there are going to be times when we don't have all the details, we don't know exactly how God is going to work through a situation, and we don't need to know. We just need to trust him and do what he says.

    When you get real with God, there comes a time when you draw your line in the sand and say, "I may not know what God is up to, but I choose to trust him. I refuse to give in to doubt or fear or despair or discouragement. I trust him enough to do what he asks me to do."

    There's an unbreakable connection between trust and obedience. If you're struggling with obedience, it might be because you haven't yet settled the trust question. Getting real with God involves a conscious choice to trust.

    One thing more to see ... Getting Real with God involves Gratitude.

    Verse 13 tell us, “Then the King bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord.”

    Notice when they offered thanksgiving and praise, It was before the battle was ever fought. You see, there’s an expectant nature to Gratitude and Praise … don’t wait till the battle’s over to worship and honor God with your praise.
    As we’ll see in the coming weeks, God came through for Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah. He saved them from their enemies and he blessed their nation. It happened because Jehoshaphat took the time to get real with God.

    He set himself up to seek God. He prayed, he fasted, he listened, he trusted, he worshipped. Now if you could summarize these five words in one word, it’d be the word surrender. In the face of an oncoming enemy, Jehoshaphat surrendered himself to God to win the victory. And it’ll work the same for us.

    Facing Troubles? Then get real with God … surrender all that you have and all that you are to him … that’s how to with the battle.



  • It Takes Power

    IT TAKES POWER
    Acts 1:1-11

    After Jesus was raised from the dead on the first Easter morning, and before he ascended into heaven to go to prepare a place for us, Jesus spent 40 days walking and talking and eating with his disciples. It must have been amazing to have been there!

    This morning I’d like us to focus specifically on the last words that Jesus shared with his disciples. Obviously they are important words -- essential for every believer to hear, because without receiving the promise that Jesus gave his followers that day, we simply can’t successfully live the Christian life.

    You know what happened after the death of Jesus. His followers scattered and abandoned him. Judas betrayed him, then took his own life. Peter denied ever having known him. The others just ran away … all except for John.

    They then locked themselves behind closed doors in an attempt to escape the same fate that Jesus had received. They began considering how they might pick up the pieces of their lives, and they were wondering if they could possibly, one day, make sense of all that had happened.

    But then, after having all but given up, the unthinkable happened. Mary Magdalene came to where they were and said, "I’ve just seen the Lord. He’s alive!" Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself ... But wasn't there.

    Later that day Jesus did appear to his disciples, in the flesh. They heard him speak. They saw his scars. They ate fish with him. And they finally believed that he was who he claimed to be: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Messiah.

    Eventually, Jesus gave them what we now call the Great Commission. It was a seemingly impossible task. He said that they were to become his witnesses all throughout the world! He was telling a ragtag team of misfits, quitters, and underachievers to go out and change the world.

    Jesus certainly knew how big of a task this was and how ill-equipped the disciples were to carry it out. He knew they didn't have it in them to pull it off all on their own. They needed something more. They needed someone more.

    And so after Jesus spoke to them about their new global mission, he had one more thing to say to them. And it’d be the very last words they would hear him speak. Here's exactly what he said to them.

    "I’m going to send to you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. Wait for the gift my Father has promised, which you’ve heard me speak about.

    For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

    Power, he said. Clothed with power on high. You will receive power. That word power in the Greek is dunamis -- it's where we get the word dynamite. And that's the kind of power that Jesus promised his followers: back then and us today. And so, today I want to talk to you about experiencing this power from on high.

    To begin, when we think about receiving Power from on high, it’s important to understand that ... Knowledge Alone Is Not Enough.
    It's not enough just to know the facts. To receive power from on high, it takes more than that! You see, it's not enough just to have knowledge of the Bible. It's not enough to just be able to recite the Apostle's Creed. These things are good, but they're not enough. If it were, Jesus could have said to the disciples:

    "OK, look. You've been with me three years. You've heard my teaching and you've learned it well. You've seen the miracles. You know what I can do. And now you've seen me raised from the dead. So now based on that knowledge, it should be enough for you to go out and turn the world upside down."

    But that's not what Jesus said … because he knew that merely knowing the facts in your head isn’t enough to get the job done. You need more than just knowledge to get through life. You need power. Dunamis. Dynamite.

    Which brings me to the next thing about receiving power from on high. And that is … Without God's Power, Life Eventually Unravels. Our lack of power, and our desperate need for power, will eventually become obvious.

    That's what happened to the disciples. They discovered what they were truly capable of on their own. On their own, they were quitters. On their own, they were cowards. On their own, they were betrayers and abandoners and deniers.

    It was obvious they needed something greater than what they had. That's why, when Jesus said, "you will be clothed with power from on high," not one of them spoke up and said, "Ah, no thanks, Lord. I'm good. I'll be fine without it." They knew they really needed it.

    And friends, every follower of Jesus Christ will eventually come to this place, realizing that we just don’t have what it takes on our own. Like the disciples, we need more! We need power from above.
    You see, we were created to live in God, connected to him, in relationship to him -- even dependent upon him. When we try to live any other way -- when we try to disconnect from him and live life on our own -- we inevitably come to the end of ourselves. Without God's power, life eventually unravels.

    That’s why it’s so important to realize that God's Power Is Available To Every Believer. Verse 8 says, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

    That’s what Jesus promised his followers and it's exactly what happened. Just a few days later, the disciples received amazing power from God! And the great thing is, that same promise is yours and mine to receive. We all need it, and the good news is, God wants to give it to us!

    And so, in the time we have remaining, I want to talk to you about what's involved in receiving this power from on high.

    First of all, I want you to understand that Receiving Power from God Most Always Involves Waiting. Notice what Jesus told his followers: “Stay in the city until you’ve been clothed with power from on high. Wait for the gift my Father has promised.

    The problem is, waiting runs contrary to our nature. Our attitude tends to be, There's no time to wait. I need it now. I want it now. Why can't I have it now? Why can't I do it now? Why should I have to wait one more minute? Why?

    Get ready, because I'm about to say something very profound. We have to wait … because it's God's way. But I want you to understand that waiting on God isn’t the same as waiting on another person.
    When we wait on another person, it's typically because we're waiting for that person to get ready … and they’re holding us up! That's not the way it is with God. When you're waiting on God, it's not because God isn't ready … it's because we’re not ready. That’s why we need to wait on God .

    But waiting on God doesn't mean sitting around and doing nothing. It means using our time to get ready for what God has in store for us. It means doing everything we can to put ourselves in a position to receive power from on high. And that pretty much means … actively seeking God.

    Here's something else … Know that God's Power Is Always Related to God's Purpose. Jesus said, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

    God wants to use you in such a way that others will come to experience his love and grace. He wants to use you in such a way that your life is a testimony to his greatness, his goodness, his mercy, his compassion and his overwhelming love.

    When we receive Jesus into our life, we become a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and God's purpose for us is that we become a productive citizen. That means that in our work and our relationships and our activities we’re to be touching lives and making a difference in the name of Jesus.

    And so in that sense … God's power isn’t just for our benefit. It's also for the benefit of others. We will be clothed with power from on high, so that we can make a difference in this world! We can our Make a Mark for Christ!

    Now some of you may be thinking: Me? Change the world? I can barely get through the day!
    And how can we as a church expand our ministry when there’s so much yet to get done? How’s that possible? Well friends, It's only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    If you need more of God's power, then decide today that you’ll actively seek him and wait expectantly for him, preparing yourself in every way possible, so that you’ll be in a position for him to move in your life..
    Throughout this series I have said again and again that you can’t make your mark on the world until God has made his mark on you. This is how he does it -- through the power of the Holy Spirit.
    So here's the Make-Your-Mark principle for this week: Ask God to fill
    you with the power of the Holy Spirit … so that you can truly make a difference for Jesus in the lives of other people. That’s how we change the world!!


  • Life Without Barriers

    Life Without Barriers
    Acts 10:34-48

    This morning we’re going to take a look at a text that marks a defining moment in the history of the church. What happened in today's story took this fledgling Jesus Movement in a whole new direction. What began as a sect of Judaism was now to become what we know as the Christian faith.
    You could say that Acts 10 shows us that this Jesus Movement wasn’t intended to be just a simple movement in a small Jerusalem neighborhood, … but that it was to become a community of believers that would ultimately span the entire world!
    And so I think Acts 10 boldly challenges us to move beyond the small-minded limited thinking of mere mortals … and move toward the all-encompassing, unlimited thinking of God.
    We're in a series called Make Your Mark. We've been talking about how we as individuals and we as a church can make a difference on the world around us. Today we're going to talk about living a life without boundries … by developing a "without borders" philosophy of ministry.
    Now as this morning’s story picks up, Peter was praying on the roof of a house when he had a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven. And it contained all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles and birds. In other words, they were animals that were forbidden in the Jewish diet.
    Then a voice spoke to him: "Peter, kill and eat." Peter said, "Absolutely not! I’ve never eaten anything unclean and I never will." But the voice spoke again, "Don’t call anything impure that God has made clean."
    This happened three times, and then there was a knock at the door. Three men had come to invite Peter to visit the home of a devout Gentile named Cornelius, who wanted to hear about Jesus.
    For many reasons, Jews weren't allowed to enter the home of a Gentile. They would have considered it to be ritually unclean. And they especially weren't allowed to eat with Gentiles.
    Peter realized of course, there was a connection between the vision he just had and the invitation he had just received, so he agreed to visit Cornelius. When he got there, he told Cornelius about Jesus and how to be saved.
    At that moment, Acts tells us that all heaven broke loose in Cornelius' house. The Holy Spirit filled Cornelius and his Gentile friends, and they began speaking in tongues and praising God.
    Peter said, "These men have received the Holy Spirit just as we did on the day of Pentecost. Clearly, God is behind this. Let's baptize them all in the name of Jesus." And that's what they did.
    Now that may seem like just another simple conversion story … but it's so much more than that.
    You see, in the next chapter, Acts 11, Peter had to answer to the other apostles for his actions, because he had done a very unorthodox thing in going to the home of a gentile -- even eating with a gentile -- and then, of all things, allowing that gentile to become part of the Christian fellowship without first converting him to Judaism.
    But after hearing Peter's story, the church leaders agreed that, yes, this is indeed a move of a God, and we need to get on board with it.
    At that moment, the Christian church became a church without bariers and a ministry without boarders. They were now ready to truly fulfill the great commission that Jesus had given them in Matthew 28.
    “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

    That's what Jesus has in mind for his followers, and that's where we need to pay close attention. Today, I want us to talk about living a life without boundaries. As we do that, there are three things I want us to see.

    First of all, We Have the Tendency to Look For the Things That Separate us … While God Tends to Focus on the Things That Bring Us Together.

    Certainly racism was at work in the first century mindset and culture. The idea among many first century Jews was that they were better than non-Jews. They thought non-Jews were dirty, immoral, barbaric and uncouth.

    You see, there was this idea that Jews, simply by virtue of them being Jews, were favored by God … and that gentiles, simply by them being gentiles, were (to put lightly) less than favored by God, … if not completely despised.

    There's an ancient prayer that devout Jewish men would recite each day:
    Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile. Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave. Blessed are you, O God, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.
    They believed that, as Jewish men, they were a little better -- a little more favored -- than everyone else.
    But, as we might imagine, that attitude wasn't just a Jewish problem. Just like the Jews, many of the surrounding nations considered themselves far better than the Jews in every way
    But the message of the gospel, and the goal of the church, is that we’re not separated according to “us and them,” … but that we are one in Christ. There is no us and them. There’s only we.
    Paul tells us in Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    So one of the things we can see from the story in Acts 10 is that while we tend to look for the things that separate us, God’s focuses on the things that bring us together.

    That’s the way we as a church need to do church, and that’s the way we as individuals need to treat each other … with an attitude that says, "I’m no better than any one else; we're all sinners in the eyes of God."
    Here's a second observation from today’s story: We Tend to Try to Box God In … While God Refuses to Be Boxed In By Anyone.
    You see, there were many first century Christians who could quote for you, chapter and verse, why you had to follow the Old Testament diet and its rituals and customs. And they had Scripture to back it up.

    The thing is, we don’t adhere to those demands and restrictions today because we understand that they were cultural and relegated to that specific time and place. In other words, they were contextual.

    A good example is that we no longer adhere to the old Jewish system of offering animal sacrifices. Instead we interpret offering sacrifices through the lens of them being spiritual sacrifices rather than physical ones. Neither do we stone someone caught in adultery!

    Even David realized this as he declared to God in Psalm 51, “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.
    The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, OGod.”

    You see friends, not a single one of us can understand the entirety of God. God has chosen to reveal himself in scripture, but not a single one of us can understand the entirety of scripture either. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we now see in a glass dimly … until we see God face to face.

    Yet, sometimes we try to define God according to a list of laws and attributes. We try to reduce him to a concept that we can wrap our heads around, so that we can understand him. We imply that we understand God in all of his fullness. How foolish … and arrogant on our part!

    Here's the problem. If you can put God in a box, if you can fully understand Him, then you’re not referring to the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. That God is too big and too far beyond what we could ever fully understand. That’s what makes Him God!

    But there were those in the first century who were confident that God would never give the Holy Spirit to Gentiles. But what they didn’t realize was that God decided to do something outside the box of their limited understanding -- something far bigger than they could ever have imagined.

    Here's what I'm getting at. God has revealed himself to us in Scripture, and he's even revealed to us much about his plan for human history. But we don't know all that there is to know about God … and we will this side of Heaven.

    The Prophet Isaiah reminds us of that reality in chapter 55 as he says on behalf of God, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."

    If your God fits in a box and is able to be fully understood … then your God’s just too small.

    Which brings us to the third thing I want us to see. And that’s While We Tend to Ask God to Bless Our Plans … Most Times God Is Trying to Get Us to Get On Board With His.

    You see, I believe that God has a plan for the church. There were some in the early days whose attitude was, "Let's just keep this thing local. Let's keep our ties to Judaism, and let's ask God to bless our little group right here, where we are … and let's not try to take it any further than that."

    But God had a different plan. His plan was that the church of Jesus Christ would carry the message of the gospel throughout the world and throughout history, crossing all boundaries and breaking all barriers, so that anyone could experience new life in Jesus Christ.

    After the events of today's story, when the Gentile household was saved, baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, the leaders of the church faced a choice: resist what God was doing, or get on board and follow God’s lead.

    And, they made the right choice. They got on board and followed God’s lead.
    I believe every church and every believer will sometime face a similar choice: Are we going to do this our way, or are we going to do this God's way?

    Are we asking God to get on board with our plans, or are we seeking God so that we can know his plan and follow where he’s trying to lead us?

    God says in Isaiah 43, "See, I’m doing a new thing! It’s springing up; don’t you see it? I’m making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

    There's one thing we can be sure of. The plans we make for ourselves are no match for the plans that God has for us -- as a church and as individuals.

    God is calling us to live a life without boundaries:
    To break down the barriers that separate us from Him,
    To break down the barriers that separate us from each other, and …
    To break down the barriers that separate us from those he’s called us to serve.

    If we can do that, trust me, if we can do that, there’ll be no limit to where we can go, what we can do, and who we’ll be able to reach for the glory of Jesus Christ! Let’s make that our prayer and our goal as we move forward!


  • It's All About Jesus

    It’s All About Jesus
    Acts 4: 1-12

    Recently there has been a Christian mini-series on television by the name of A.D. It’s the story of the Christian faith beginning with the resurrection of Jesus. It pretty much covers the book of Acts and the birth of the church.

    The story behind the series is interesting. It was developed by a married couple by the name of named Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Mark made his mark in Hollywood producing reality shows. Roma is an actress most well known as Monica on Touched by an Angel.

    Both are Christians, and so they began to dream about producing a series that would teach the story of the Bible from start to finish -- from Genesis to Revelation. They spent some time developing this idea until they were ready to shop it around to various studios and production companies.

    Most studios didn’t show much interest. But then one gave a counter offer. They said, "You just might have something there. Is there any way you could tell the story without mentioning Jesus?" Their response was, "Sorry. That's not possible. The story … it’s all about Jesus."

    Frank Peretti is a popular Christian fiction writer. His first few books sold millions of copies in the Christian marketplace -- to the extent that a secular publisher offered him a contract to publish and market his next book.

    As he was working on the new book, his new publisher began to make some suggestions. One of the editors said, "I understand you want to write about spiritual matters … but do you have to mention Jesus? Can't you just refer to God? Isn't that the same thing?" His answer … but it’s all about Jesus!
    I think this attitude reflects the times we live in. It's okay, for the most part, to talk about God -- as long as you keep it vague. When you begin to talk specifically about Jesus, people get a little squeamish. And yet there’s something about Jesus that draws people to him. Why then are we so hesitant?

    Over the last few weeks we’ve been in a sermon series called “Make Your Mark.” We've been talking about how we as Christians can make a real difference in our world. We've been looking at stories in the book of Acts, where we can learn from the example of the early church.

    If anyone made a difference in the world, was the early church. After the death of Jesus all the disciples scattered and it looked like this fledgling group would fade into history.

    Then something happened, and within a few weeks the disciples were back, preaching their message more conviction and courage than ever before. As a result, in just a few days 5000 people became followers of Christ.

    What happened? Two things. One, the disciples encountered the risen Christ. He was dead and now he was alive. Two, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God in their lives, and it gave them a new power, a new boldness, and a new sense of mission.

    Now in Acts chapter 3 we find the story of Peter healing a crippled man by speaking the name of Jesus. And that didn’t sit go well with the religious leaders. So they grabbed Peter and John and threw them in jail for the night.

    The next day the two disciples are brought before the council and are asked, "By what power or what name did you do this?"
    Peter answers, in effect, "Let me make it clear. It is by the name of Jesus Christ that this man has been healed. It’s all about Jesus." This isn't about him being merely a good teacher or a popular rabbi or a great philosopher. We're saying that this man, Jesus, is the cornerstone -- the foundation -- of all that we believe."

    And then Peter added this powerful and faith-defining sentence. He said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to us by which we must be saved."

    That my friends is the gospel: Jesus lived, died, and rose again, and through him we have new life. That's what Christianity is really all about: who Christ is and what Christ has done, and what our response should be.

    And yet, sometimes, we're reluctant to talk about him. He belongs front and center, but we often try to tuck him away so that he doesn't offend anyone. Because of that, often the world misses out on hearing the greatest story ever told: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    So today I want to talk to you about what our message to the world needs to be, both as a church and as individuals.

    The message of the early church was unambiguous and bold. Yet, the truth is that sometimes our message is ambiguous and tentative. Sometimes we're not as clear as we need to be about what really matters most.

    And so today as we focus in on the message we should be sending to the world, I want to briefly talk about how we sometimes get it wrong, how we need to get it right, and how we can take a step to make it happen.

    First, let's talk about … HOW WE GET IT WRONG. The biggest mistake the church can make is to make following Jesus about something other than following Jesus. Yet throughout history, we've been guilty of doing that.

    One of the ways we do that is by making our message too much about the do's and don'ts. Often times we fall into the trap of just preaching about this sin and that sin and what every one else is doing wrong. We make it all about our behavior rather than all about Jesus!

    Now, does behavior matter? Of course it does. Do we need to confront sin? Of course we do. But the message of the gospel is not "You are a sinner." That statement is true, but it's not the gospel. The message of the gospel is that Jesus lived and died and rose again, and through him we have new life. Through him our sins can be forgiven!

    Our goal in ministry is not to get bad people to stop doing bad things. Our goal is to help bad people become good people. And when I say bad people -- you know who I'm talking about. I'm talking about us. The only you or me or anyone else in this world can be good is through the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.

    So yes, we talk about behavior, we talk about sin, we talk about right and wrong, but let's make it clear that Christianity isn’t just about do's and don'ts. It's about a one-on-one relationship with Jesus! It’s all about Jesus!

    Which brings me to the second thing I want to point out today. We’ve talked about how we can get it wrong; now let's talk about HOW WE CAN GET IT RIGHT. Peter said, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to us by which we must be saved."
    So if indeed there is salvation in no other way and through no one else, that means that Jesus needs to be the center of our focus … and the primary topic of our discussions. So I’d like to very quickly mention three things about Jesus that we need to stay focused on.

    First of all … Jesus shows us who God really is. He shows what God is like, because he himself is God. He wasn't just a good teacher. He, quite literally, is God in the flesh. He said to his followers … “If anyone who has seen me has seen the father.” He also said … "I and the Father are one."

    That means that Jesus is the spittin' image of God. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus … because Jesus is God. Jesus came into the world so that we might get the complete picture of who God is.

    So our message to the world needs to be: Do you want to know what kind of God we serve? Look at Jesus. Look at what he said and what he did and how he treated others. He is a perfect example of what God is like.

    We need to emphasize that in Jesus, we can see what God is really like. We also need to emphasize that Jesus shows us what love really means.

    Swiss theologian Karl Barth, who is considered to be one of the greatest minds and one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, was once asked during a lecture if he could sum up his theology in a single sentence. His response: "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

    Jesus really is about love. He came into this world to die on the cross for our sins because he loves each and every one of us. And he wants us to love him back … and … love each other. Jesus said, “This is my command …that you love one another.”
    So our message to the world needs to be that we take love seriously ... because Jesus takes love seriously -- and in the same way that he has shown his love to us, we seek to show his love to others.

    Jesus shows us who God really is. Jesus shows us what love really means. And here's a third thing we need to emphasize. Jesus shows us what life is really meant to be.

    You see, when Peter said that salvation is found in no one else, he's not just talking about going to heaven instead of hell when you die. He's talking about salvation in this life. He's talking about a crippled man who had just been healed by the power of Jesus Christ -- just as any broken life can be healed through his power.

    Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." He also said, "These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

    Jesus came so that we might experience life as it should be experienced -- not a life destroyed by sin, but a life redeemed and made right by his mercy and his grace and his power. And so our message to the world needs to be: Jesus, and no other, can make your life what it’s really meant to be.

    The gospel isn’t about politics. It isn’t about religion. And it isn’t just about all the do's and don'ts. The gospel is that Jesus lived, and died, and rose again -- and through him you can experience new life.

    Our message to the world needs to be about Jesus, that he can make a difference in your life. That means we need to be about Jesus. More than anything else, we need to be about Jesus.
    As we close, I want to give you one practical way to move in that direction. Beginning today, I challenge you to read the Gospel of John over the next seven days. If you read three chapters a day, you can finish it in a week.

    Find the easiest, most user-friendly translation you can. There are several to choose from. And then read John from start to finish. Don't try to do a deep and detailed study, just read the stories, and see what they tell you about Jesus, and see what they tell you about God.

    My prayer is that this simple reading of one of the gospel of John will kindle -- or perhaps rekindle -- a desire to know Jesus personally, and to make your life all about him.

    There’s no other name under heaven that has been given to us by which we must be saved. It’s all about Jesus! So let's make sure that we’re plenty familiar with the stories of his life … and that our message and our mission are all about Him.


  • A Story to Tell

    A Story to Tell
    Acts 2:1-4, 22-24 and Acts 8:26-40

    Most likely we’ve all experienced it. In fact, there are lots of jokes about it. You step on to the car lot just wanting to look or perhaps actually giving consideration to buying a new car. And without warning you get met by an over-achieving, impassioned car salesman. And the pressure is on.

    For some reason he gets it into his head that today, right now, is the time for you to buy a new car. And man is he persistent! He looks you in the eye and says, "What do I have to do to get you in this new car today?" And he has a predetermined answer for every concern that you may heave. He has all the answers to your objections.

    It’s not a very comfortable place to find yourself. In fact, the last few cars Linda and I’ve bought she didn’t see until they were parked in our driveway. She just doesn’t handle high-pressure sales very well. Most of us don’t!

    Yet, I find it interesting, perhaps even a bit disturbing, that those are the techniques often used in sharing the Gospel of Jesus with a lost world. It’s as if we’re to try to manipulate people into the Kingdom … to pressure them into becoming a Christian … to argue them into submission in accepting Christ.

    While that approach may work for some people, let me suggest that it’s not the answer for most of us. For most of us, I think that an approach called “Relational Evangelism” is much more appropriate. It’s more natural and much less threatening to us and the person we’re trying to share our faith with.

    That’s why this morning, on Pentecost Sunday, not only have we heard the story of Pentecost, as thousands of people became new Believers,
    but we’ve also heard the story of how the Apostle Philip very effectively shared the Christian faith with the Ethiopian eunuch. Let’s take a closer look at that encounter and notice how Philip shared the Gospel with him.

    Notice first how Philip was willing to listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
    Verse 29 says, “The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."

    This is how faith sharing needs to begin. We need to be listening for the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit. He'll gently speak to you and draw someone to your attention. There were probably hundreds of people on that road, but it was the Ethiopian that the Spirit called to Philip's attention.

    That’s how sharing your faith works. You don’t grab every person you see on the street and shout the gospel in their face. You let the Holy Spirit guide you to the ones who are ready to listen. Believe me, if you make yourself available to him, God will guide you to the right people.

    If you will listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit, he’ll give you opportunities to share your faith others -- friends, strangers, family members, co-workers, and so on. Begin by saying, "Lord, open my eyes and my ears today to hear your voice and recognize the opportunities that you’ll place in my path."

    Another way to put that is to Look for an open door. Philip heard the man reading from the Old Testament … what an opening! So Philip asked him about what he was reading, to which the man replied, “Come Up and Sit with me.” Now that’s an open door and Philip walked right through it!

    The other side of the coin is that there’ll also be times when the door is tightly shut … completely unreceptive to hearing about the faith you want to share. When that happens, what do you do? … You respect the closed door.
    The Holy Spirit is still in the process of getting them ready. Listening to the Spirit and looking for the open door go hand-in-hand. God’s the one who’s at work in their heart. We’re just the bearer of the message. God prepares their heart to receive it.

    When you share your faith, listen for the Spirit’s prompting and look for the open door. Make sure the soil is fertile before you plant the seed. Don’t take the high-pressure sales approach. Let God do his work first. He’s the only one who can truly draw someone into a life-changing relationship with him.

    From Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian, I think we can also see how important it is that when we share our faith ... We begin right where they are. In other words, it’s not about having a predetermined 5 step cookie cutter process to lead someone into the faith. It’s much more personal than that. Notice how it worked with Philip’s story.

    The Ethiopian was reading from the book of Isaiah. He was very obviously interested in that Old Testament writing. So that’s where Philip began. Verse 35 says, “Then Philip began with that very of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”

    I think often times in sharing our faith, we try to answer questions that the person isn’t even asking …we try to force the conversation in a direction that isn’t particularly relevant to what’s happening in that person’s life. In other words, we don’t listen to their hurts and needs … we just plow forward with our own preset agenda.

    So when the Spirit leads and the door opens, talk to that person about where they are, about their questions and curiosities. Make it a conversation that’s relevant to what’s going on in their life.
    And that’s the really great thing about the Christian faith. It addresses human life right where the rubber meets the road. It reaches out to us with comfort, and direction, and assurance that touches our lives right where we live. It scratches us right where we itch.

    But the Gospel does that … not with a philosophy or a self-help technique or even a religious set of rules … it reaches out to us with a story of a person … a person like no other … a person who can heal our hurts and meet our needs. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that we Tell them about Jesus.

    Verse 35 tells us, “Then Philip began with that very of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. And that’s where our conversation needs to ultimately take our conversation as well. It's all about Jesus.

    It's not about church or politics or following a bunch of rules and regulations. It's all about Jesus, how he lived and died and rose again, and all who put their trust in him experience new life … because he is the Lord of all creation and he wants to be the Lord of our life.

    Maybe you don't yet know the Scriptures well enough to talk about the prophetic nuances of Isaiah 53 … but you can tell others what Jesus has done for you. You can tell others what Jesus can do for them.

    If you're talking to others about the Christian faith, and your conversation is primarily about what we as a church think about culture and politics, you're missing the point.

    Our goal is to show a lost and dying world how they can experience life in a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. When you share your faith, share Jesus. And then leave the decision up to them.

    You see, it's their decision what they’ll do about their relationship with God. You can't make the decision for them, and you certainly can't pressure them into making the right decision. It's a decision each individual has to make for themselves. We just bear the message. We just tell the story. They choose.

    When Philip was talking to the Ethiopian, he didn't start trying to manipulate the conversation and close the deal so that the man could sign on the dotted line. He just told him about Jesus, and suddenly the man responded.

    Vs 37-38 tell us, “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here’s some water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" And he gave orders to stop the chariot.

    You see, the Ethiopian owned his decision and decided to be baptized. And it wasn’t because Philip smooth-talked his way through a slick presentation. It was because he told him about Jesus … and he was ready to hear and commit.

    I think we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that evangelism is selling Christianity, and we're to be the high-pressure salesmen. But it's not that at all. You're not God's sales person, you're his reporter.

    It's not your job to "close the deal." It's your job to tell the story. To report what God has done through Jesus Christ and what he has done in your life. Just tell the story. Tell them God’s story. And tell them the difference that God has made in your life.

    And that’s how we make our mark on the world around us: When the Spirit leads and the door opens, start the conversation. Tell the story. Tell them God’s story. And let God be the one to draw them into the faith.
    That’s what Peter did on the day of Pentecost. And that’s what Philip did with the Ethiopian. And that’s what God is still asking us to do today.

    It’s not about us. It’s about the power of God’s Spirit to work in and through us. So just relax and tell the story.


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